Exploring Sherpa Land

Text & Photos by Ngima Dendi Sherpa

Whether you are thinking of taking a trekking or hiking trips, Nepal is always the best destination in the world for taking these adventures. And when you think about Nepal, the first thing that comes to mind is Mt. Everest, the highest peak in the world.

Located in the northern part of Solukumbu within the Sagarmatha National Park, trekking to the Everest is considered once-in-a-lifetime trekking destinations in the world. There are also other attractive destinations in the district which are largely overshadowed by the glory of Mount Everest. Among them, the Peekye Trek, Rumjataar to Jiri via Peekye trek and the combined Peekye and Dudhkunda treks hold great potential in the area which lies in the southern part of the district and are less frequented by tourists.

The Peekye region is situated 250 kilometers to the east of Kathmandu and has lots to offer to it’s visitors, particularly the mesmerizing landscape and experiencing the local Sherpa culture and their hospitality. Some trekkers prefer the high altitude of the Khumbu area, while others enjoy walking in lower areas, which are home to a large range of fauna, flora and ethnic cultures in the backdrop of giant Himalayan peaks.

One of the most beautiful areas and still largely off the tourist route, is Peekye Peak (4070m) – a very special mountain that is considered the protector of the entire Solu region. It is a destination not to be missed if one is planning to trek in the Everest region.

The trek to the Peekye passes through many villages and Jiri, Bandar (Changma) and Golla are the major ones along the trail. Golla is a small Sherpa village of about 40 houses scattered over the slope of Peekye at an altitude of 3,060 m, and dominated by a range of snow-capped mountains: Gaurishankar, Karylung, Numbur and Katanga among others. The village also houses four monasteries, all belonging to the Nyingmapa school of Tibetan Buddhism, in which the monks perform the sacred dance festivals such as Duwa Chhechi, Ngungne, Dumji and  Mani Rimdu (according to the lunar calendar). Each festival lasts for several days.

The major attractions of the area are its villages and their traditional life, delicious Sherpa food, festive Buddhist monasteries and shrines, the dense forests of pine and juniper, the varieties of rhododendron (which start blooming from March and remain on till September), and the colorful birds including Danfe — the national bird of Nepal.

The views from Peekye is inexpressible, stretching from Kanchenjunga in the far east to Annapurna in the west (one can view Kanchenjunga, Makalu, Everest, Lhotse, Nupse, Manaslu, Annapurna, Gaurishanker and uncountable other peaks) and from north to south (the view toward the west and to the south takes in countless hills towards an invisible horizon). And all along the trail, both sunrise and sunset views are truly breathtaking. The sunset view from Peekye is also beyond comparison than in other parts of Nepal.

The entire Peekye area is a pastureland of the Sherpas living in the surrounding areas. They spend the period from May to October in this heaven with cattle (naks and yaks). Complementing the rich pastureland are three major cheese factories (more than anywhere else in Nepal in number and quality). Two of them can be visited on the trail, to a warm welcome from their managers with a cup of tasty tea or warm milk and piece of fresh cheese!

Peekye is a perfect area for those with less time and wishes to experience varied trek — see Everest in full scale, enjoy deep blue skies, visit typical villages, and experience the mountain climate without seasonal barriers! Each season of the year has its own beauty – its own feel – that makes a trip to this area worthwhile.

The trek begins from Shivalaya which can be reached after a drive of two hours on rough roads from Jiri – the gateway to Everest before Lukla airstrip was built. Itinerary follows:

DAY 1: KATHMANDU TO JIRI (1,955M) – SHIVALAYA (1,770M)

Duration: 5-7 hour drive

Drive to Jiri along the hilly highway. When the weather is good, beautiful views of the snow-capped mountains can be seen along the way. Jiri is the center of Dolakha district and is inhabited mainly by Jirels — a Nepalese ethnic group. But Sherpas, Chhetries, and other ethnic groups also inhabit the place. From Jiri, it is a drive of another two hours on a rough road to Shivalaya — a small village inhabited by Tamangs, Newars, and Sherpas. The village lies on the bank of Shivalaya River. Alternatively, one can start the walk from Jiri itself.

 

DAY 2: SHIVALAYA TO CHANGMA OR BHANDAR (2,190M) 

Duration: 5-hour trek

A three-hour rhythmic climb up through scattered village above the Shivalaya River takes to Deurali — a small hamlet from Dudh Kunda Himal, Khatanga, Karylung, Gaurishanker and Peekye Peak can be seen. The trail then descends until reaching Bhandar, a Sherpa village with two stupas and a small monastery. The village covers a large area inhabited mainly by Sherpa people.

DAY 3: CHANGMA (BHANDAR) – NAMKHILE – GOLLA (2,980M)

Duration: 6-hour trek

The trail on the third day descends before reaching Likhu Khola. Crossing the river, the trail ascends to Namkhile. From here fine views of Numbur Himal, the trail, and the surround villages can be seen. It is also an ideal place for lunch. From Namkhile, the trail passes through a forest of pines and rhododendrons with a steep ascend. The village of Golla is not visible until you reach to the ridge of the hill that hides the entire village. Golla is beautifully settled on the lap of a hill facing east with a lovely panorama of Peekye, Mount Gauri Shanker, Khatanga and Numbur range. This village houses three major monasteries, including a nunnery. It is also a typical Sherpa village whose inhabitants are mainly farmers. Each household has some cows and dzoms (a cross between a yak and cow).

DAY 4: EXPLORE GOLLA

Exploring the village provides an opportunity to experience the daily life of the people here. You can even enjoy delicious Sherpa food.  Sherpas are very good at cooking meals with potatoes. They prepare more than 10 dishes from potato itself. Visit the three main monasteries of this village and a school run by a social organization — Peekye Hill Social Organization.

DAY 5: GOLLA TO NGAUR (3,350M)

Duration: 4-hour trek

A walk through a forest full of rhododendrons leads to the hamlet of Ngaur, situated on the top of a hill. This area is home to a dense forest of pine, juniper, different kinds of rhododendron and bamboo. The lower Valleys of Peekye are densely forested and is a sanctuary for many colorful birds. From Ngaur, the view towards Tseringma (Gaurishankar) and Dudh Kunda Himal is spectacular. Ngaur has few houses and a monastery. A cheese factory lies at a close distance to Ngaur, where one can taste and buy cheese made from nak (female yak) and dzom milk. The sunset view from Ngaur has no comparison with other sunset viewpoints in the country since the sun dips from behind the mountains that are further west of Kathmandu. Both sunrise and sunset, from Ngaur, are truly breathtaking with the display of the changing colors of the summits all around.

DAY 6: NGAUR TO CHAMDINGMA (3,510M)

Duration: 3-hour trek

The trail then goes through the pasture land where Sherpas from the Golla village spend their summer with their cattle. Snowcapped mountains can be seen from the pasture land. The view toward the west and south, stretches with countless hill providing a view of an invisible horizon. There are three major cheese factories in the area and two of them can be visited during the trek. Visitors here can also get a taste of local tea or with a cup of warm milk. Mini cheese-rolls can also be bought here for a souvenir or for evening celebrations.

DAY 7: TOP OF PEEKYE (4,065M) AND  TREK TO GOLLA 

Duration: 4-hour trek

A short hike from Chamdingma takes to the top of Peekye. The top offers a stunning view of sunrise. It would be wise to start the hike earlier as the eastern horizon slowly brightens and the stars begin to disappear against the background of the dazzling Karilung, Gaurishanker and Everest range. Magnificent views of peaks stretching from Kanchenjunga in the east to the Annapurna in the west can be seen from the top. Mountain ranges including Kanchenjunga, Makalu, Everest, Lhotse, Nuptse, Manaslu, and Annapurna, among others are visible from here. After sunrise, return back to the village and continue trek to Golla village.

DAY 8: GOLLA TO DEURALI

Duration: 4-5 hour trek

The trail from Golla descends until reaching to river crossing of Likhu Khola. A short ascend from the river crossing takes to Thado Khola. It can be an ideal place for lunch and brief rest. From here the trail continues up-hill to Bandar and Deurali. Though there is a motorable road to Jiri from Bhandar, it would be wise to walk to Shivalaya.

DAY 9: DEURALI – SHIVALAYA -KATHMANDU

Duration: 1 hour trek/7-hour drive

Trek to Shivalaya and drive to Kathmandu.

(Author is the Managing Director of Happy Feet Mountaineers (P) Ltd.)

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